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Journal Article

The dry sky: future scenarios for humanity's modification of the atmospheric water cycle


Keys,  Patrick W.
External Organizations;

Wang-Erlandsson,  Lan
External Organizations;

Moore,  Michele-Lee
External Organizations;

Pranindita,  Agnes
External Organizations;


Stenzel,  Fabian
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Varis,  Olli
External Organizations;

Warrier,  Rekha
External Organizations;

Wong,  R. Bin
External Organizations;

D'Odorico,  Paolo
External Organizations;

Folke,  Carl
External Organizations;

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Keys, P. W., Wang-Erlandsson, L., Moore, M.-L., Pranindita, A., Stenzel, F., Varis, O., Warrier, R., Wong, R. B., D'Odorico, P., Folke, C. (2024): The dry sky: future scenarios for humanity's modification of the atmospheric water cycle. - Global Sustainability, 7, e11.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_29485
Humanity is modifying the atmospheric water cycle, via land use, climate change, air pollution, and weather modification. Given the implications of this, we present a theoretical framing of atmospheric water as an economic good. Historically, atmospheric water was tacitly considered a ‘public good’ since it was neither actively consumed (rival) nor controlled (exclusive). However, given anthropogenic changes, atmospheric water is becoming 'common-pool’ (rival, non-excludable) or 'club’ (non-rival, excludable). Moreover, advancements in weather modification presage water becoming a 'private’ good (i.e. rival, excludable). In this research, we explore the implications of different economic goods framings using story-based scenarios of human modifications of the atmospheric water cycle. We blend computational text analysis with expert perspectives to create science fiction prototypes of the future. The economic goods framing highlights that social choices play an enormous role in how the future will unfold with regard to human interaction with the atmospheric water cycle. The narrative scenarios serve two purposes. First, they provide creative artifacts for the investigation of future interactions with the atmospheric water cycle, that are rooted in a scientific evidence base. Second, they articulate trajectories of our coupled social-hydrological world that require deeper interrogation and anticipation in the present.